Source: China State Council Information Office 3
Pan Qunfang has been practicing brush writing for around three years. The strokes written by the 13-year-old boy are similar to Chinese characters, however, only people from Sui ethnic minority can understand the ancient writing.
“This character means gold, and the other means fire. The characters were created by the Sui ethnic group,” Pan told a group of visitors.
Pan lives in Shuiwei Village in Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China’s Guizhou Province. There are a total of 314 students at his school, among which 215 are from the Sui ethnic group.
With a population of over 400,000, Sui is among China’s 56 ethnic groups. Sui people mainly live in Guizhou and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
To cultivate students’ interests in their own culture, Pan’s school has been introducing Sui culture in classes since 2017.
“My grandpa and father know how to read and write Sui characters, but they are too busy to teach me at home. At school, three teachers teach us to read and write Sui characters,” Pan said.
“More and more students are becoming interested in learning Sui culture, and the cultural knowledge enriches students’ lives at school,” said Wei Yongliang, one of the three teachers.
Pan’s school is not exceptional. According to the department of education of Guizhou, there are more than 5,000 schools offering interest-oriented lessons about ethnic cultures. The figure was only around 100 in 2002.
Guizhou was one of the first provinces to include education of ethnic cultures at schools around the year 2000.
The contents of the lessons include ethnic martial arts, instruments, dances, songs, sports, literature and customs.
Liuguan junior middle school, located in Xixiu District in the city of Anshun, is another school that provides such lessons. Its curriculum includes woodcarving and Tunpu culture, as well as local opera and folk costumes, which originated from the Ming Dynasty more than 600 years ago.
Cao Zijian, who has taken woodcarving classes for just one year, has learned to carve masks out of wood.
“I saw these types of masks when I was a kid, but I never knew how they were made and had been curious until I joined the woodcarving class,” Cao said, adding that he has also learned about the stories behind the masks and has fallen in love with mask-carving.
“The school has been trying its best to encourage more students to get involved in woodcarving,” said Ren Fujiang, a craftsman hired by the school. The 47-year-old has been teaching carving at the school since 2012.
“The reason why I chose to teach craftsmanship at school is that I hope more and more students will like woodcarving so that the skills can be passed on,” Ren added.
So far, more than 1,000 students have participated in woodcarving lessons since 2006, according to the school.
“Introducing ethnic and folk cultures into the curriculum can not only pass down the cultures from generation to generation but also enrich students’ multi-cultural cognition, as well as cultivate students’ cultural confidence,” said Zhao Chenghong, headmaster of the school.
“It doesn’t matter whether they will continue the craftsmanship or not. The most important is that they have a unique experience,” Zhao added.